The Secular Media Vs. Religious Liberty

The Obama administration is waging war on Christianity. Somehow, the networks haven’t seen this as newsworthy.

On Jan. 20, Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services announced its perverse attempt to force Catholic schools, hospitals and other charitable agencies to finance sterilization, abortifacients and contraceptives in their insurance plans starting in 2013. Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan roared like a lion in a press statement: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.” He asserted, “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable.”

In its first online dispatch on Jan. 20, The New York Times loaded up quotes from liberals and only carried a six-word quote from the bishops lamenting the “unprecedented attack on religious liberty.”

The bishops have protested with an outrage louder than this Catholic has ever heard. For weeks now, the Catholic faithful have heard priests and their bishops pronounce from the pulpit that the Obama administration cannot be obeyed on this intrusive mandate. “We cannot — and will not — comply with this unjust law,” protested Virginia bishops Paul Loverde and Francis DiLorenzo in a letter read in churches on Feb. 5. The Catholic Church is under attack, and it’s sounding like it’s ready for civil disobedience.

Why was everyone so late to this protest? Fox News was the first sign of life we saw on TV, when they mentioned the contraceptive controversy in their March for Life story — for just one sentence — on the Jan. 23 “Special Report.”

It took CBS 10 days to air its first brief news story on the controversy on “CBS This Morning” on Jan. 30, after the bishops’ letters were read in church. CNN arrived on the story that day.

On Jan. 31, Fox News correspondent Ed Henry raised the issue with Obama spokesman Jay Carney, who spewed nonsense about how their policy “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services.” After the exchange, anchor Megyn Kelly summarized, “This is turning into a big deal.” But the big three networks were asleep for 15 days.

Team Obama’s hostility went even further. On Feb. 3, it was revealed the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent an email to senior Army chaplains advising them not to read Archbishop Timothy Broglio’s hard-hitting letter from the pulpit. In the letter, Broglio insisted, “It is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle.”

John McHugh, Obama’s secretary of the army, agreed before Sunday masses that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter, but the line “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law” was removed at McHugh’s suggestion.

Network coverage of this outrage? Zero. But at this point, the networks were all leading their newscasts with the non-story that Planned Parenthood might be denied less than a million dollars for breast cancer screenings.

Journalists claim to be zealots for the First Amendment. But when it comes to the state ordering around the Catholic Church — from banning the reading of bishops’ letters and then compromising by censoring sentences — it sounds like they’d be comfortable with some kind of Potemkin Catholic Church akin to the one in communist China, an official church that bows to the state.

The issue finally broke out on the Sunday morning interview programs on Feb. 5, but only because Newt Gingrich forced the issue onto the agenda in his CBS and NBC appearances. ABC, CNN and Fox asked about it.

The Obama administration’s hostility to religious liberty isn’t limited to Catholics. Last fall, the Department of Justice filed a brief at the Supreme Court against a Lutheran school’s attempt to fire a teacher. Cheryl Perich had sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church said Perich violated church tenets by bringing her grievance to the federal government rather than appealing to the church to win reinstatement.

Ed Whelan of National Review declared the DOJs position was “even more hostile” to the Lutherans “than the amicus brief filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU.”

On Jan. 11, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of the Lutherans. In a short stand-up report, NBCs Pete Williams described it as “easily the most important decision on religious freedom in decades.” But wait –: that’s all: he said? If it was this historic, was it not worth mentioning the extreme position of the Obama forces?

ABC and CBS aired nothing on that high court decision. These networks don’t have sympathy for, or even an interest in, religious Americans — unless, of course, someone’s protesting a mosque at ground zero.

L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center.

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